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Slowing Penguins' power play a goal for Islanders

by Brian Compton

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- For the past two games of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series, the New York Islanders have played awfully well against the Pittsburgh Penguins when the teams are at even strength.

It's the Penguins' power play that has been the difference. It's why Pittsburgh enters Game 4 of the teams' Stanley Cup Playoff series Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN) at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum with a 2-1 series lead.

The Penguins went 3-for-5 with the man advantage in their 5-4 overtime victory in Game 3. Overall, they've converted on six of 13 power-play opportunities through the first three games of the series.

Indeed, the Islanders know they need to be more disciplined in Game 4 if they plan on turning this into a best-of-3 series.

"We've got to stay out of the box," Islanders center John Tavares said Tuesday. "We've got to try and get some big goals on the power play, too. We've done some pretty good things on the [power play], but we can still be better and execute a little more.

"But there's going to be times you're going to have to kill penalties, so we're going to have to do a better job of killing them when we have them. Obviously, they [the Penguins] are lethal. Their fourth and fifth options on the [power play] are pretty good. We just have to be ready and not make it easy for them. They have to earn everything they get."

The Penguins' already-loaded power play could receive another boost in Game 4 with the potential return of James Neal. The talented forward was a full participant at the morning skate and could return to the lineup after missing Games 2 and 3 with a lower-body injury.

Neal scored 21 goals during the regular season for Pittsburgh; nine of them came on the power play.

"We've got to be physical and we've got to be tough on them, but with how lethal their power play is, we have to be a bit more cautious of what [we are] doing," Isles forward Matt Martin said. "You can't necessarily just take a shot at one of their guys and end up in the box, especially with the way they've been scoring on our penalty kill right now."

Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik also skated Tuesday and could make his debut in this series. If he does, the amount of physical play only will intensify. The Islanders will have to walk that fine line between playing a physical game while at the same time avoid putting the Pens on the power play.

"It's difficult, but I think the main thing is to not retaliate," Martin said. "We've got to control our emotions. Sometimes your emotions get the best of you out there, but penalties are going to happen. We've just got to do a better job of killing them."

One thing is certain -- the Islanders will have a raucous, capacity crowd on their side.

"It's crazy in here," Martin said. "Even in warm-ups [prior to Game 3], it was loud. It was exciting, and they're a big reason why we were able to come back in the game. They gave us that extra boost. It's one of the loudest arenas in the League when it's full. People give us a lot of (grief), but it's a lot of fun to play here when it's like that."

"We easily could be up 2-1 ourselves," Tavares said. "Obviously, that's not the case. We're behind the eight-ball a little bit and we need to get results. But we feel like we're right there and we've proven that we can beat these guys."


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